"THE FATHER OF THE LOS ANGELES SCHOOL OF FICTION WRITERS": FIRST EDITION OF JOHN FANTE'S FIRST BOOK OF SHORT PROSE, DAGO RED, 1940, INSCRIBED BY HIM IN THE MONTH OF PUBLICATION
FANTE, John. Dago Red. New York: Viking, 1940. Octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. $5500.
First edition of a pivotal work by Fante, ranked with Chandler and Saroyan and of vital importance to Charles Bukowski, who called him, "my god… a lifetime influence on my writing," with 13 stories together in print for the first time, an exceptional copy inscribed by him on publisher's tipped-in leaf in the month of publication, "John Fante Sept 1, 1940," in bright original dust jacket.
"John Fante may be one of the few writers for whom the cliché 'before his time' can be used without exaggeration. By 1940 he had three books—Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938), Ask the Dust (1939) and Dago Red (1940)—and a promising future. The problem was, the future would take a little longer to arrive than he thought… Half a century later [he]… had to be rediscovered by Charles Bukowski." Fante became, in Bukowski's words, "my god… a lifetime influence on my writing." In France, "Fante has been called the father of the Los Angeles School of fiction writers, Bukowski being its most famous son." To many critics, as well, Fante's work, "along with that of Chandler and Saroyan, 'deserves to be preserved among the voices of the day… his vision of a bygone world, and that vision's influence… [is] the bridge between the emotional recklessness of the lost generation and our currently cool, if embattled, American spirit… Much of what we mislabel original and startling in contemporary fiction is there in Fante's work" (Collins, John Fante, 263-67).
"As a second-generation Italian American, Fante put into words his condition, at once maddening and stimulating, of being culturally in-between, of simultaneously acknowledging and rejecting his Italian heritage, of needing to both identify with the American mainstream and keep at bay a nagging suspicion he could never entirely belong to it. In the course of a career that began in the 1930s with the appearance of his first stories in H.L. Mencken's influential American Mercury… Fante produced works which… place him firmly in the history of American literary modernism, and which in some respects look forward to postmodernism." His writings have also made him "a prominent figure in the tradition of the American urban novel of the 20th century… In a deceptively simple, wonderfully fluid prose style that resonates with the quality of the speaking voice, his novels and short stories dramatize the themes at the heart of… the American experience as a whole, namely: identity, allegiance, family, independence and self-expression" (Buonomo, Legacy of John Fante, 101). "It is the beauty of Fante's achievement, and perhaps the lesson of the odyssey of his life, that a chronicle of the birth and death of dreams is worth the telling, and worth a life of work to capture in an art that preserves the identity of one human voice" (Collins, 273). First edition, first printing: no statement of edition or printing on copyright page. Containing 13 works of short prose together in print for the first time, including the first appearance in print of: Wife for Dino Rossi; Wrath of God, Hail Mary. With seven works serialized in American Mercury: Altar Boy (August 1932); Home, Sweet Home (November 1932); First Communion (February 1933); Big Leaguer (March 1933); The Odyssey of a Wop (September 1933); Bricklayer in the Snow (January 1936); Road to Hell (October 1937); together with: My Mother's Goofy Song (Story magazine, April 1933); One of Us (Atlantic Monthly, October 1934); A Kidnapping in the Family (Harper's Bazaar, June 1936). Bookplate.
Book fine; light edge-wear, small closed tear to rear seam of very scarce near-fine dust jacket.